Location: Hopkins River (Fishing Guide)

19 Oct 23
Despite being such an easily accessible waterway located in the heart of one of Victoria's larger cities, the Hopkins continues to shine as one of the best estuaries around. Anglers travel from far to fish for the famous black bream, alongside good numbers of estuary perch, trout in the fresh, and the occasional mulloway for the lucky few. The best part is, we are heading into the peak season now, so read on to find out about how to get amongst a few of the Hopkins' finest as we move up the river, explaining the hotspots on the way.

Starting down the front of the system, the sandflats, weedbeds and deep channels that make up the blue hole and danger board areas (upstream to the bridge) are ideal spots for wading and casting soft plastics or fly over the warmer months. During the day, these flats can be very popular swimming or walking areas so evenings, weekdays or rougher weather periods usually produce the best fishing. Bream can be found all through this area; try fishing small plastics, lightly weighted worms, prawn or nippers as bait. Surface lures can work really well in the lower light periods in summer. Deeper holes can be fished with vibes, heavier plastics or bait to good effect. The best fishing down here is when the mouth is open, with blue water coming in on a run-in tide. It's also a good area for mulloway at night when they're around; boats often anchor up and cast back into the drop offs with pilchard or mullet. This is also a section where you can expect a lot of by-catch, not just bream/perch, but maybe salmon, mullet, flathead, whiting, trevally, pinkies, sea-run trout, mulloway to name a few.

The bridge is a popular landbased spot for the kids or newbies, with easy access. The pylons below attract some serious sized bream which require some stopping when hooked, and are best fished out of a boat or kayak. Casting unweighted crabs under here is a deadly way to connect to a mega bream, but expect to lose a few. Mulloway fishing can also be good around here, whether its bait fishing along the western end (closer to the deep channel) or lure casting with 4" plastics or vibes around sunset or after dark. Lots of perch around here too, especially at night.

The jetties along the riverbank between the bridge and ski run offer excellent land-based bream fishing; an unweighted fresh bait under a pontoon can't be beaten for bait fishermen or Cranka Crabs, mussel vibes and light plastics for lure casters. On the opposite side of the river, the mud-flats and mud-island can be very productive spots for bream year round. Grub or paddle tail plastics are excellent along here with a 1/16th or 1/12th jighead dependent on water levels and wind. Fly-fishing the edges with crab or shrimp patterns can also be good, you can wade upstream from the bridge. 

The next section is the ski run; marked by buoys and characterised by the tall cliffs on the north bank upstream to Mahoney's Road. This area is very productive in winter and spring when spawning bream and perch congregate in this area and can be located on the sounder in big schools, with small black vibes cast into them working well. During summer, bait anglers can fish off the bank when the water levels are low enough. Casting small hardbodies, light plastics, pink grubs or bent minnows back into these rocks and snags is a fun way to fish during summer with plenty of small fish and a few bigger ones.

Around Deakin offers great land-based access, with plenty of open banks, jetties and parking. This section used to be famous for extensive seagrass which spread along these banks and offered incredible and reliable perch fishing, however these weedbeds died off a decade or so ago, and never grew back. Mud now dominates the bottom along here, however the local GHCMA has been working hard to restore fish habitat along here, with hundreds of wooden fish structures and stabilising rock walls now present along here. The fish have responded well and it's once again an excellent spot to cast a hardbody or soft plastic now, or cast a worm off the bank.

As you progress upstream towards Jubilee Park, you'll find a mix of rockwalls, mudflats, deep rocky reefs and reed banks. A few of the hotspots include Rowan's Lane (where there is landbased access), Hen & Chickens Reef and the Kings Head. Hen & Chickens is located just below the bluegum plantation below Jubilee Park, with markers indicating the reef. This area lights up with bream on the right day, try casting plastics, jerkbaits, bent minnows or Cranka Crabs back into the reef and hold on. On dark this area fishes well for perch with surface lures, either landbased or in a boat. A few mulloway also turn up along here for those fishing with vibes or plastics. The Kings Head is below the tall cliffs opposite Rowan's Lane, with similar fishing opportunities to the ski lane with rockwall fishing from a boat.

Jubilee Park offers great landbased fishing right behind the caravan park, and lots of jetties to spread out on. Opposite, the islands fish well for bream and perch on shallow hardbodies or surface. Walking up to the 'Pass'; a narrow section of river with exposed reef during low water, is well worth it and is reliable for mulloway too. The last hotspot in the estuary is Tooram Stones; this is the upper limit of the estuary where a steep rockbar of ancient lava flows separates a 12m deep estuary from the freshwater above. A boat is needed for access here. Bream and perch both abound , especially in spring and summer. Spring is when you can intercept big numbers of fish travelling to and from the estuary to spawn, or returning upstream. After floods fish also congregate here and you'll find some freshwater oddities including trout, bass and redfin. Try casting jerkbaits or plastics against the rockbar into the flowing water, or fishing the edges and upstream pools with pink grubs and surface lures in the morning and evening. Mulloway can also be found here, taking live mullet or soft plastics. 

The freshwater section of the Hopkins is extensive, stretching hundreds of kilometres up to Ararat. Most fishing of note is below Framlingham which is the upstream limit of trout stocking. Any of the freshwater pools below Allansford provide good fishing for bream, bass and perch in the summer, especially in the evening. Between Allansford and the Falls is mostly perch water, with the odd trout. Most fishing is done around access points of the Falls or Saint Marys lane, or by tinnies. The Falls offers great access to trout and perch; a 3" plastic or shallow hardbody can get you onto both at any time of year. During summer the trout move to an insect based diet around here, and are best caught on fly. During winter though, baitfish dominate their diets and fish are much easier caught on lures when the waters cool, turn dirty and rise. In between the Falls and Framlingham, deep pools are separated by rocky runs which become the target of trout anglers between May to October. In summer, soft plastics fished in the deep pools is the best way to get onto a trout. You could also run into a redfin or bass along here, although they're far and few between. If you are keen on a trout, fish this stretch (especially around the Emu Creek junction) during winter after rain, with 75-90mm hardbodies.

So that's the Hopkins in a nutshell! A 2500 reel, 2-4kg rod with 8lb braid and 6lb leader will cover basically any fishing in here, and only a small selection of lures (or baits) is really needed. Just need to get out there and explore this summer.